Ten climbs, 10 cakes? All were wondering just how many calories would be burnt on this 150-kilometre brute through the Surrey lanes. Would it justify a piece of the banana loaf AND a sliver of the chocolate cake?
Clear skies greeted the day while people registered and set their bikes up in sleepy Walton on the Hill. All were here to ride one of three routes: Fruit Cake (150km), Carrot Cake (110km) or Jaffa Cake (65km). Many swapped down to the shorter distance of the Carrot Cake on the day in an attempt to get back to the home-baked cakes on offer at the end first. No one wanted to admit that 150 klicks was a stretch for their fitness at the end of the season. Those who did take on the longer challenge were rewarded with a tough route.
Fruity fruiters headed out at eight and immediately went south to Betchworth and Brockham, minding the newly surfaced Pebblecombe Hill. The first of the 10 climbs of the day was Henfold Hill. Although not a killer, it got the lungs working and set the tone for the rest of the day.
Pretty tree-lined lanes were dropping leaves all the way through Newdigate, Capel and Ockley where the first feed station was. Full mechanical support was on offer while riders munched on bars and cakes. Luckily for all, there was no debris on the road and only one rider needed the roving support.
The real treat of the ride was heading down Weare Street. Palatial homes hid behind tall old trees, while ducks paddled on lakes. The rolling nature of the road meant riders popped out at the end with ferocity and were at Oakwood Hill before they knew it. By the time riders had reached the top they were at the crest of the first loop in the figure-of-eight course.
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Heading through Shere, made famous by its appearance a number of films including Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, presented its challenge with steep Pitch Hill to combat, Pitch rhyming with… Just when riders thought there was a reprieve it was time to hit White Down climbing onto the top of Ranmore. Following the ridge gave a view of rolling Surrey before descending only to go back up again. This time it was Chapel Lane and on to Brockham where residents were starting to build the famous November 5 bonfire.
With one loop completed, heading back through Shere some riders stopped at the Lucky Duck Cafe, a favourite of the late John Ibbotson, in whose name the sportive is run. All proceeds from the event go to the fund set up after his death to support young riders in cycling careers on the Continent. Sandy Lane dragged on after a several cups of tea, before heading on to Peaslake. The second biggest test of the route dawned at this idyllic little village, dragging up through picturesque pine trees to the top of Leith Hill. Riders were rewarded with fantastic autumnal views.
Completing the second loop, it was back to familiar territory and the feed station at Ockley. The return journey didn’t follow the same route, however, skirting around Gatwick Airport along open country lanes through Rusper and Muggeridge’s Hill.
At Salfords the Fruit Cakers joined back onto the Jaffa Cake route, dragging themselves along as the fatigue was setting in. Unfortunately, the dark clouds that had been the backdrop of the Surrey Hills now came to the fore. With only a few miles to complete the ride, the skies opened up and the last group of riders heading past Fanny’s Farm Shop, another cake stop favourite of John’s, were drenched.
Sodden yet elated that they had finished, riders arrived back at the registration hall. A family affair, fresh homemade cakes were served to all from John’s mum Sue. Proudly munching cake, wearing medals and comparing certificates, riders filled the hall with bragging chatter.
The 2011 Cake Quest is now open for entry, go to www.ibbocakequest.com for more details.
Scott Davey (39)
110km in 6-14
“This ride was more testing than the other two I have done. It had everything – hard hill sections and flat riding – it was a very well organised event. The cakes when we finished could not of been better! Would do the ride again and the free photos were a lovely touch after the event.”
Martin Day (46)
60km in 3-00
“What a great day and very well organised. I kept up with some experienced road cyclists to the 25-mile mark, then we had to climb back up the Downs, which slowed me dramatically! I will definitely be back next year.”
This article appeared in the December 23, 2010 edition of Cycling Weekly magazine